Antwerp desalination plant will convert dock water into process water for industry

Dec. 8, 2020
Switching from freshwater to dockwater from Antwerp port will save millions of liters of drinking water.

ANTWERP -- A new desalination plant to be built in the port of Antwerp will pump up brackish dock water starting in 2024 and convert it into high-quality process water for the chemical sector in the area. As a result, chemical companies no longer have to use drinking water from the Albert Canal for certain production processes. This will save millions of liters of drinking water per year during the start-up phase.

Chemical companies Covestro and Evonik are the first to participate in this ambitious infrastructure project of investment company AVAIO, headquartered in New York, which works closely with the international group AECOM. The company plans to build a desalination plant that will pump, desalinate and purify brackish dock water into process water. The water  plant    ory will be located on the Covestro industrial site and will also supply Evonik via a new pipeline along the Scheldelaan.

Avaio has concluded a letter of intent with Covestro to build the water plant on the chemical company's premises. The plant will also supply neighboring Evonik via a pipeline and is envisaged that other chemical companies will also be able to connect to it.

In the chemical sector, water is a crucial link in the production processes. Drinking water is mainly used as a necessary raw material, but also for steam production or as cooling water to ensure the safety of the installations. With the construction of a new water plant in the port of Antwerp, industrial companies no longer have to use drinking water from the Albert Canal, but can switch to water from the port docks for their process water needs.

As a result, Covestro and Evonik can reduce their drinking water consumption by as much as 98 percent. Both chemical companies will only use drinking water for sanitary applications. The desalination plant could save the equivalent of the water used by approximately 40,000 families of 4 people. In addition, it is possible to expand the water plant even further – and the associated drinking water savings. AVAIO is in negotiations with other companies and in consultation with Port of Antwerp.

The conversion of dock water to process water not only reduces the pressure on the drinking water supply but also offers quality and environmental benefits. For example, the salt load, or concentration of minerals, of process water is 5 times lower than of drinking water. Because the water contains less salt, it is better suited for chemical installations. This means less water use, less wastewater and fewer chemicals for water treatment.

AVAIO and AECOM want to start applying for the necessary permits early next year and AVAIO expects to start construction of the plant by mid-2022. It should be operational two years later, in 2024. AVAIO and AECOM aim to run the desalination plant on green power. The water plant is also equipped with the right technology to reuse used wastewater at a later stage and thus has the potential to close the industrial water cycle.

"Chemical and pharmaceutical companies have already significantly reduced the consumption of drinking and groundwater over the past ten years, with an efficiency increase of no less than 35 percent,” Frank Beckx, managing director Essenscia Flanders, sector federation of chemistry and life sciences said. “So, we produce more with less water. With this unique project, the chemical sector is once again reducing drinking water consumption, fully in line with the ambitions of the Flemish government's Blue Deal." 

To learn more, contact Guillermo Espiga, [email protected].      

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